Oh, Việt Nam, how I love you. You are a lovely place to live, and I’ve even gotten used to the heat. I’m typing this in my favorite café on An Dương Vương, which has no AC. Though there are fans. The café also strews birdseed on the sidewalk in front of it, and when the sun comes out everything glows in wholesome gold. When I walk into the café, birds fly up in front of my face, and feathers drift to the ground, all lazy in the heat.
I’ve found the right café, that’s certain. The coffee is good, and it’s about a two minute walk from my apartment. However, despite living in an area teeming with bookstores, I have yet to find the right one.
I have very specific requirements for a bookstore. The first is that it have books in English. The second is that these books must be a mix between popular fiction and classics. The third – and trickiest – is that the selection must include Vietnamese books translated into English.
It’s the third one that kills me. There are plenty of stores with books in English; one of them, a mere fifteen minute walk from my place, features nothing but English-language materials. But no one bothers to translate Vietnamese books into English. This is perhaps undertandable. The average American/British traveler may not be interested in poetry during the reign of Gia Long. But gosh darnit, I am.
So the other day I broke down and ordered some books from Amazon and Magers and Quinn, my favorite stateside bookstore. I opted for a dual-language edition of the poetry of Hồ Xuân Hương, and another bilingual edition of Vietnamese feminist poets.
My interests: they are obscure. But I really can’t wait for the last one…apparently it contains some oral poetry! Though how one can know the gender of the authors – if there even *are* authors – of oral poetry is a mystery to me. But I hope the anthology is interesting reading! It’d better be; shipping books to Việt Nam is a really quick way to break the bank. Oy vey.